Executive Report-November/December 2012

Association eyes remake of CarolinaHome.com

By Anne Marie Howard, Chief Executive Officer

In late October, we began a project I’m excited about. We launched an intensive look at our website to see how www.CarolinaHome.com can provide more value to you as a member as well as to the public.

We expect to have results from this effort by the end of 2012 so that we can formulate a Request For Proposal for vendors to work with us on revamping the site, and perhaps www.CarolinaRealtors.com and www.Mingle.com as well.

Why am I excited? It may sound pretty ho-hum in today’s world of tweeting, texting and facebooking, but it’s simple. Websites are still powerful sources of information, especially when it comes to residential real estate. Also, the stars have aligned to make this a great time for the association to pursue this important project.

Unrealized potential

We haven’t looked in-depth at the website for several years, and everyone from our Communications Advisory Group to our association leadership believes we have unrealized potential with it, both in performance and revenue.

When Jennifer Frontera was preparing for her 2012 presidency, consultant Kevin McQueen led a Visioning Session for association and CarolinaMLS leadership. He identified the following as one of the Big Outcomes in his report: “Engage more consumers through CarolinaHome.com and generate more leads and buyers.”

Meanwhile, the Executive Committee and I attended the North Carolina Association of Realtors®’ (NCAR) Vision Quest early this year in Winston-Salem. We heard Melynn Sight of nSight Marketing talk about understanding your “value proposition” as a basis for making good decisions. This concept made sense as a starting point to think about improving CarolinaHome.com. Plus, I’d been impressed with Melynn’s marketing expertise shared at other Realtor® meetings, and she understands our industry. Her husband is a Realtor® in the Kansas City, Kan., area, where they live.

Melynn and I chatted by phone about applying the value proposition concept to CarolinaHome.com, and perhaps other aspects of the association and CarolinaMLS down the road. We also talked about the importance of gauging where things stand with the association’s media and website presence. We would need to have that understanding to inform our value proposition work. The Association Executive Committee liked Melynn’s audit and workshop proposals, and we moved forward.

Audit, workshop

In mid-October, Melynn shared her findings from her media and website audit. The media aspect looked at how the media views the association, particularly with respect to CarolinaHome.com. The results will help us find more opportunities to promote our members and our industry to the public. The website audit was a review not only of CarolinaHome but of the CarolinaRealtors and Mingle sites as well. Those audit results will give us an idea of how to repackage our sites’ content so they are easier to navigate.

Melynn’s audit work helped her gain background information that was necessary for our Oct. 23 workshop on CarolinaHome’s value proposition. The workshop was what our incoming president, Eric Locher, wanted for his planning session prior to 2013. Participating in the workshop were the association board, including incoming directors; a handful of current and incoming MLS directors; and senior staff.

I’m grateful to the participants, especially members, for their time. It was considerable — two hours for a pre-workshop webinar on the value proposition concept and five to six hours for the workshop itself.

As Melynn noted in her statement of work for the workshop, “Why should the target audience choose CarolinaHome.com over non-real estate industry sources like Zillow and Trulia for information about Charlotte-area real estate?”

I’m excited about answering that question and then putting in place what we need to make CarolinaHome and our member firm sites the websites of choice for home buyers and sellers in the region. After all, our members are in real estate brokerage and no one is better to share the expertise they have with consumers – no one! Stay tuned!